A week of self-love is always a welcome intermission from the day-to-day, where traffic, deadlines, social commitments and other consequences of that thing some people call “adulting” are inescapable. Imagine this: a villa in the mountains, all to yourself; an infinity pool overlooking a pretty steep dive is connected to your actual bedroom so that you can jump into the pool straight out of bed; breakfast is served at the exact time every day by your own personal assistant; the option of exercise or massage available 24 hours. Ain’t that the life?
Recently, Murad Skincare brought us to Ubud, in the uplands of Bali, Indonesia, for a wellness retreat led by Dr. Howard Murad MD himself, advocate of Inclusive Health and the founder of the brand. Like the popular surfer’s destination Seminyak, Ubud is popular among tourists — unlike Seminyak, it is a place to visit if you’re looking for some quiet. Our hotel, COMO Shambala Estate, is a two-hour drive from Seminyak and is 20 minutes from Ubud central. It’s what a city girl would call isolated. There’s no public transport going to the city center, no shuttles after 5 p.m. But the mountain setting and the distance aided us in our purpose; the only sound you’re likely to hear is the chirping of cicadas or the rustling of leaves brought on by village monkeys. An organized retreat focused on wellness — eating well, getting hydrated, exercise and meditation — is its specialty. One led by Dr. Murad, an expert on all these, is an experience.
I’ve never met anyone who lives and breathes positivity like he does. Murad, with its clinical packaging and completely straightforward approach to skincare, is actually the kind of brand that builds a track inside its Los Angeles compound for employees to jog on, and a kitchen where Dr. Murad likes to cook for his staff. On our first night, he wore a bright floral shirt and polka-dot socks, which I got a peek of during the Balinese Legong Dance presentation. Not a typical doctor’s attire. He also doesn’t talk like a doctor — he speaks like a shaman of sorts, always sneaking in his words of wisdom during conversations, like Yoda, but not quite as cryptic. His approach is very simple: focus on youth-building instead of anti-aging, focus on health and mental strength, and supplement all that with a skincare routine that works.
His son Jeff, VP of product development at Murad, who is also a classically trained composer and writer, is more likely to talk about the science behind the products. He also likes to talk about his dog, a pitbull mix, like he were his child. During our stay in Bali with the father-son expert, they revealed some insights on cultural stress, inclusive health, skincare and some of Murad’s new products.
HERE’S WHAT I LEARNED FROM DR. MURAD AND JEFF:
1. Go On, Put Everything In Your Omelette
Dr. Murad likes to cook. Almost all his books contain recipes. In Bali, the Murad team set up a cooking class that was really more of an “art of cooking” class — in which Dr. Murad just put everything he could find (or anything we asked him to) in a pan, and mixed it with eggs. “What is something you would never put in an omelette?” he asked, taking two pieces of chopped sardines and throwing it into the pan. I put sardines in my omelette, but I guess that’s just a Filipino thing, because he also mixed it with spinach, ham, turmeric, ginger powder, bellpepper, tomatoes, oatmeal, and quinoa. “You’ll never know if you like it unless you try.”
2. Load Up On Embryonic Food
Dr. Murad likes eggs and other embryonic food like beans and seeds. “It’s my philosophy of being younger. Sprouted grains seem to have more nutrients in them of everything. An egg, when we eat it, doesn’t have hair and a beak and bone and things like that, but the chicken came out of that. So you’re going to get a lot more nutrition from that embryonic part of the food than you would get out of something that’s already made. Let’s look at an egg, it has all kinds of protein, and you look at the chicken, and probably they’re very similar because how did it get to be a chicken? It had to have come out of that egg. It had to have specific nutrients to make the chicken. It’s also my philosophy of, the more you become like a child, the more you’re creative, the more you’re not modified by society, the more pure you are,” he said.
3. Choose Organic When You Can
Organic eating is not just a fad, it’s a lifestyle that’s increasingly becoming more necessary in this day and age, when everything is mass produced and probably not in the way nature intended. “Why do we want food that’s organic?” Dr. Murad asked. “How does organic food survive if we didn’t put pesticides to fight all the bugs? It had to create its own unique chemicals to fight. It should have other chemicals in it that allowed it to survive in our environment without any help.”
4. Take Your Supplements
Treating skin on the surface is a good thing. Eating healthy to get vitamins and antioxidants to the blood stream is also a good thing. But Dr. Murad says it’s not enough. “If you put vitamin C, for example, beneath the surface you get so much more. Way back in 1995, I got patents for supplements where I did scientific proof of reduction of wrinkles by 34 percent by taking a supplement, by reducing acne and increasing sunscreen,” said Dr. Murad. “As a pharmacist, you see the Rx, that stands for “recipe,” and in cooking, you have a recipe. In an orange, you have vitamin C, but you have a lot of other things. The combination of that is probably a little bit better.” He recommends lecithin, which is found in all Murad supplements, for cellular health.
5. Be The Light You Want To See In The World
Dr. Murad has a simple way of reducing cultural stress — you know, stress from work, traffic, pollution, social commitments, and other things people now like to call parts of adulting: touching and talking. He says, “A lot of times, just a little bit of words of wisdom, a little bit of comfort, helps. We don’t get touched anymore. More and more people are living alone, and not just living alone but living in a very small environment. We’re more isolated, living in cramped quarters and we can’t do anything about it. But it’s not the stress, it’s how you address it. One of my favorite sayings is ‘Rewrite and reframe the negatives in your life.’ We all have negatives but you can reframe it.”
6. Get Your Water From Food
Do we really need eight glasses of water a day? It can’t hurt. But to really reap the hydrating benefits of water down to your cells, which need it most, you need to get it from food. “I’m a person who has a cell membrane that’s very thin because I’m older. When I drink water it’s just gonna go through the cells. What I want to do is maintain strong cell membranes to retain the water and also encourage water. The best way to get water is actually through food, because they are mostly water but they have so many other good benefits besides water. And it’s in the structure, so it’s released over a longer period of time,” he said.
7. Beware The Light Of Your Mobile Device
Dr. Jeff Murad says four hours of looking at your mobile phone, tablet, or laptop is equivalent to an entire day of sun exposure. But because these things are inescapable, try protection. “We have two new products in our Environmental Shield line coming out next year. One is just due to the modern and urban environment and its effects on the skin. One is a day moisturizer we call Environmental Protection Factor 5, so it’s not just UVA and UVB, it’s everything in the environment that’s damaging your skin. So that includes pollution, infra-red lights — that’s the heat from the sun that’s probably more damaging than UV rays, and also visible light from our tablets,” he explained. Murad uses a substance called ectoin, which is a water shell that extremophiles (single-celled organisms, they live in the saltiest lakes, the driest deserts, the coldest parts of the earth, the harshest, most unlivable environments) produce to keep them hydrated in the absence of usable water.
“We are utilizing that, as well as stem cells from plants that are very rare and high in antioxidants, so instead of harvesting the plants and taking the extracts, we’re taking stem cells and culturing them, and then we’re stressing them with our environment, cigarette smoke, car exhaust, so they start really over-producing these protective antioxidants. So the night cream is very reparative and the day cream is very protective,” he said.
8. Create Your Own Regimen
It doesn’t have to be 12 steps, but it has to be at least four, according to Dr. Murad. “As a general rule, you should cleanse your skin. You should put a moisturizer with sunscreen in the morning. If you have wrinkles or acne you should use something to treat it. And at night, you should also use a night cream, because we found that the damage that occurred during the day doesn’t really show up until later. Four steps, in a way, are a minimum. But if you had to do only one thing, you have to get Invisiblur because it’s a treatment, a moisturizer and a sunscreen.” Jeff added, “Philippines uses the lowest number of steps and Japan uses the highest. Philippines, the average is one. Japan is 12 or 14. But in most Southeast Asian countries, they like bigger regimens. Murad Invisiblur is ideal for the Philippines. In general, any Murad product can be mixed and matched so you have a unique regimen that’s perfect for your skin.”
9. Load Up On Lutine
“UV, is right past the violet which is the visible ray. Below that, what you can’t see anymore is infrared. Sunscreen for the longest time only protects damage from UVBs, then SPF for UVA protection. The more we study the more we learn that every part of the spectrum affects your skin cells. We use lutine. We extract it from marigold plants and their flowers have carotinenoids, which are basically plant pigments. These are their sunscreen. Carotinenoid fruits and vegetables use these pigments to protect them from the sun,” said Jeff. Opthalmologists also prescribe lutine to protect eyes from UV damage.
10. Get A Facelift…But Don’t Forget Your Cells
“My dad always said that if you have wrinkles and you get a facelift, you don’t realize that the skin all looks old. You’re just focusing on the wrinkles, but it’s still old skin. You’re not hydrating, keeping it protected and giving it the nutrients it needs to build youthful cells,” said Jeff. Eating healthy, properly dealing with stress, and a good skincare regimen is still required.
11. Your Hands Reveal Your True Age
Treat the rest of your body the way you treat your face. Take it from Dr. Murad: “We have two hands, and one just always looks older than the other. Put our hand creams on your older looking hand and look at the difference. Hands, neck, and decollatage are ignored. People value hands less than they do the face. You’re willing to pay $100 for a face cream, but you won’t pay more than $50 for a hand cream. Treat your hand as if it was your face. So our formulas are strong and really make a difference in your skin.”
12. Youth Is Not Forever But Youthfulness Can Be
Because we age every day, it does make sense to start an antiaging regimen while we’re young. Dr. Murad makes a sensible case for it: “By age 14, you’ll have the most hair you’re ever gonna have on your head. By age 18 or 19, you’ll be tallest you’ve ever been. If you look at those numbers, more or less, definitely by your 20s you should be using anti-aging because you’ve begun to age. On the other hand an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so if you use antiaging when you’re younger, you’re gonna maintain the benefits. If you think as sunscreen as an antiaging ingredient, you should use it when you’re two.” In case you panicked, that last bit was a joke.
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This article was originally published in The Philippine STAR. In the Philippines, Murad is available at Rustan’s. For information on Murad products, Dr. Howard Murad M.D. and Dr. Jeff Murad M.D., visit www.murad.com.